A sculpture project featuring two bronzed seven-foot-high Windsor chairs has endured multiple misfortunes in the decade since it was first envisioned to honour Windsor’s relationship with its 12 sister cities.
Now the “half-done” project is being salvaged, pending council approval, at a cost of $170,500 — bound for a premier location in Jackson Park. You’ll be able to see the big bronze chairs, positioned so they partly face one another, from the Ouellette Avenue overpass
“The idea was to have a conversation in these chairs, that they would be positioned like that, and people can climb in them and take pictures,” said Mayor Drew Dilkens, who chaired the International Relations Committee that first got the ball rolling on the project on Jan. 27, 2010.
“It’ll be a wonderful addition to Jackson Park, it really will.”
Originally called the Twin Cities Monument Project, it began as an art competition for high school students in 2010 but produced “disappointing” results. So the contest was opened up to the entire city in 2011 and a formal call for expressions of interest in 2012. Neither garnered much response.
So in 2013, the committee upped the amount of money it would pay from $15,000 to $25,000 and eventually got in contact with a local artist with a proven track record, Laura Shintani. Her concept was the You + Me sculpture which would cost the city $25,000, with the local Korean Society contributing $1,000 and Shintani herself fundraising $224,000 for a total price tag of $250,000.
From an artistic point of view, this is very generous
She would build the seven-foot Windsor chairs out of wood. At the time, the International Children’s Games was being hosted by Windsor, so Shintani held a series of events collecting the wax fingerprints of child athletes around the world and molded them to the chairs. The idea was to cast the fingerprint-covered chairs in bronze and install them in Jackson Park.
But the project collapsed when Shintani, experiencing some health issues involving her family, moved home to Toronto and decided to not move forward with it, said Cathy Masterson, the city’s manager of cultural affairs. Shintani gave the original models to the city.
“It was a concept originally of Windsor chairs being large, welcoming pieces of furniture, bringing people into the community sort of piece,” said Masterson.
Over the years, they were on display in the Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor Public Library and the lobby of the Alzheimer Society, where they were exposed to full sun causing the wax fingerprints to melt and deteriorate. They eventually came back to the city.
“Frankly, when we got the chairs back it looked like the chairs had warts all over them,” the mayor said. Most recently, they chairs have been tucked away in storage.
Now the plan is to revive the project, employing an arts endowment fund created by council with $2.75 million in 2017. The idea of the fund is to invest the money and use a portion of the interest to pay for arts projects. The You + Me sculpture will be the first recipient from the fund, which has grown to almost $3 million.
The city contacted local sculptor Mark Williams — responsible for such striking local sculptures as the Brock/Tecumseh monument in Sandwich, Four Generations in Ford City and the War of 1812 sculpture in Amherstburg’s Kings Navy Yard Park — and asked if he could take a look at the chairs. He concluded the fingerprints couldn’t be saved, and proposed instead to have the bronzed chairs inscribed with the names of the sister cities as well as numerous other cities from around the world. The idea is that people can explore the sculpture and find the cities they or their families came from, said Dilkens.
It’s hoped Williams can finish the project — most of the cost is going toward the expensive bronzing process — over the winter with installation some time next summer. Masterson said artists normally don’t like to take over the work of another artist. They prefer to pursue their own vision.
“From an artistic point of view, this is very generous,” said Masterson. “Mark obviously is a phenomenal sculptor. I think that he has offered to step in and see this is finished.”
Dilkens said that Shintani didn’t fundraise anything for her original You + Me project. The original $1,000 from the Korean Society and $25,000 from the International Relations Committee are going toward the new project, with the endowment fund providing $144,500 over three years.
“The whole idea of that endowment fund was to do projects just like this,” the mayor said, saying the themes of the project — the partnerships with sister cities, the fact they are Windsor chairs, and the multiculturalism aspect conveyed by all the engraved international cities — are still meaningful.
A report from Masterson, recommending that the city enter into an agreement for Williams to complete the project for $148,500 (the rest of the $170,500 is for installation costs), goes to council’s community services and parks standing committee on Nov 6.
“To see this not happen I think would be more of a travesty for the city than to actually see it happen, which would be a wonderful addition to Jackson Park.”